Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Earth Abides, or a study in boredom

Earth Abides
George Stewart

When I was an angst-ridden teen, I took delight in wallowing in the pathetic smarm of my tortured soul by engaging in mildly destructive activities like the application of heavy eyeliner and awful hair dye (semi-permanent, thank you), half-hearted attempts at self-mutilation (considering I still have a panic attack every time I visit the dentist, I obviously didn't get very far), and recreational drug use (and I am not condoning such behavior; I think it's fairly clear that I was a tool during this time). Oh, I had the world on my shoulders indeed. What an awful life I lead, living rent free and in relative ease with no worries or any real problems. At least my Trent understood. Downward Spiral forever!

Today, I am slightly older and clearly much wiser. My appearance is poser-free and I look and feel fabulous. More importantly, I no longer need to occupy my time with the hallmarks of the immature and emotionally stunted. Instead, I stoke the embers of my pain by reading novels like Earth Abides.

"Life is pain"

Let me say right away that Earth Abides is scarily realistic; after reading it, I have no doubt that whenever the end comes, whether it be the machines that rise against us, or the icebergs, or some bird-killing superflu, much will happen exactly as Stewart predicted. (Okay, maybe not if there’s a war against the machines; we'll be too busy hiding in foxholes while a cast of assorted robots traipse across a battlefield of human bones.) At any rate, I am eternally grateful for having read this book, since I now realize that in the event I survive the destruction of humanity, I must immediately cut off my head with the nearest implement capable of doing the job. Survival be damned.

Am I being a bit melodramatic? Perhaps. Perhaps not. And even though discussing an author's picture branded me silly* I will say that he looks like a nice enough guy:

"Hey, sonny! I'm only trying to warn humanity!"

And because he is cute in a grandfatherly sort of way, I feel really bad about trashing his book. So instead of doing that, I'll just give you a sampling of the novel by pretending I'm a survivor in Stewart's futuristic funhouse:

I'm alone. Let's explore!

Hey hey! Fruit in a can! Nice!

Oooh, there's a dog. I hope it doesn't bite me! Where's my hammer?

Uh-oh, what's that smell? That can't be good....

Huh, the street has flooded. Should I unclog the drain? Nah, let it be...the earth will reclaim it.

The fence fell down. Ah, nature.

Found a survivor! Crap! He's an alcoholic! Too bad he isn't tough like me!

Hey! A goat's eating my lawn! Oh well.

Uh-oh, my clock stopped. Who needs time, anyway?

Look at all these ants!

I'll go to the library! Nothing better to do!

Found a lady friend! Let's mate!

Where did all the ants go? Ah, Darwin!

Let's have some canned peaches for dinner!

Whoa, look at all the rats!

Let’s travel the country before the earth reclaims the roads and bridges!

New York is depressing.

What happened to all the rats?

Uh-oh. Fire.

Oh well.

Repeat the above 290 times, and you've just read Earth Abides!

In a nutshell: Very realistic, but if this is life after the end of the world, count me out. Maybe I would have liked it more if it were a short story.

Bibliolatry Scale: 1 out of 6 stars

*a euphemism for "idiot", not that I'm bitter or anything


Sara said...

Do you happen to know any books about machines taking over the world, btw, ala Terminator? I was thinking the other day about how it was surprising that I didn't know of any, but I only read sci-fi sporadically.

Bibliolatrist said...

No, but then again I'm hardly an expert in sci-fi either. I'm also surprised I can't think of any...although I have a feeling it's more due to my lack of knowledge than the fact that they don't exist.

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Wooo! She's gone over to The New Blogger and is fixing up her labels - please note however you've completely screwed up my RSS feed.

By the way - Harlan Ellison is credited at the end of Terminator, because he sued Cameron's arse off for plagiarism. "I have no mouth and I must scream" and "soldier" are two Ellison stories that when mixed together form Terminator. Mouth is about a tyrannical machine treating humans the way my cat treats frogs, Soldier is about a time traveller for an evil and scary future absorbed by war.

Apart from The Matrix tho, I cant think of other "machines destroy the world" stories.


Bibliolatrist said...

I know! I'm getting better at pictures too! Wheee!

Sorry about the feed...all in the name of onward and upward...or something...